- This story previously appeared in the pay-what-you-can Clarion Foundation fundraiser anthology The Red Volume.
- Mentioned in Alisdair’s commentary: KT Tunstall “Black Horse”
- Discuss on our forums.
- For a list of all Escape Pod stories, authors and narrators, visit our sortable Wikipedia page
about the author…
Lara Elena Donnelly lives and pretends to work in Louisville, Kentucky. When she is not writing (which is far too often), she swing dances, makes art, and does yoga in the park.
Her fiction swings heavily anachronistic. She has a penchant for putting fairies, magic, and demons where they shouldn’t be; namely, pivotal points in history.
about the narrator…
David D. Levine is the author of novel Arabella of Mars (forthcoming from Tor in 2016) and over fifty SF and fantasy short stories. His story “Tk’Tk’Tk” won the Hugo Award, and he has been shortlisted for awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, and Sturgeon. His stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, and five Year’s Best anthologies as well as his award-winning collection Space Magic from Wheatland Press. David lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Kate Yule. His web site is www.daviddlevine.com.
by Lara Elena Donnelly
When I pick Louisa up from school, _All Things Considered_ is on the radio, playing a round table discussion about the virus. One person believes that the disease ravaging the corn belt is a government experiment gone awry. The reporter reminds the audience: botanists speculate it was brought to the U.S. by an invasive species of beetle. I recognize a few of the interviewees—I studied their research back when I was still pursuing my doctorate. Before I met Ann, before we had Louisa. It’s strange, thinking I could have been on NPR some day, if I had finished my degree.
I turn the radio off before Louisa is buckled in. The virus has been the only thing on the news for a week. Louisa’s teacher talked about it with her class a little bit, but I don’t want Louisa to get worried, so Ann and I don’t mention it much at home.
“Daddy,” she says, buckling herself in. “Can we plant my tomatoes when we get home?”
Louisa’s tomatoes started out as a kindergarten project last spring, but quickly escalated into a backyard plot sized right for a small-town farmers’ market. Ann and I thought she would forget about them this year, but in February she asked if we could plant tomatoes again.
“Sure, cookie. But you have to do your homework first.”
She shakes her head. “Mommy said she would help with my homework.”
I sigh. Ann won’t be home until Louisa is in bed. She called at lunch today and said her boss wanted a story on the virus before she left the office—it’s starting to appear outside the Midwest now, affecting fields in New England. There are signs that it might be spreading to wheat and other grasses.
“Mommy’s going to be late,” I say. “I can help you.” Like I’ve been helping Ann on and off. Half the reason she’s on the stupid story to begin with is my half-finished PhD.
Louisa doesn’t say anything. She used to cry every night Ann was away. Now she hardly complains, but I worry about what’s going on in her head. We try to make her understand that mommy’s work is very important because daddy doesn’t have an office job—his job is to pick Louisa up from school and make her healthy snacks, to watch her favorite TV shows and play with Legos.
Now, Louisa stares out the window, picking at the edge of a band-aid on her knee. I hope she knows we both love her.